The Lord’s Prayer in Vestan

From the past to the future. Here’s a translation of the paternoster into 26th-century Vestan:

||:|||::: iee1 ô2vo3 fûzo4 :: in āvan5 see6 ::
io nààm shə̀ bá sāwraaza
bòn uud laig in āvan see :||:
gēv dɛ̀7 plɛ̀i8 gə̄iəd ôvo dáála mīmbo9 |
noo fōgev dɛ̀ plɛ̀i vìr ôvo lêze10 glàin11 ::
laig ɛ̀ fōgev dɛ̄dam see :: díí glàin gààs ɛ̀ see |
noo díín lá ɛ̀ plɛ̀i nó bá là êni nee tíítaajhan |
bɛ́ líver ɛ̀ plɛ̀i fən rûie :||:
aamen :::|||:||

(it seems this font can’t handle diacritics over schwa, sorry about that)

Some notes:

1: Vestan, like all Space English, requires all vocatives to be made explicit with a preposed pronoun; the distinctive, irregular lowering of the vowel in this word is a Vestan trait.

2: Space English is a tonal language (or family of languages, depending on your point of view). The diacritics in this transcription (into contemporary Detroit Letters – Vestan is natively written mostly in its own script with an archaising and idiosyncratic spelling, largely indecipherable to outsiders) indicate tones.

3: Vestan, like other asteroid dialects, strengthens medial /w/ to /v/; this is a major diffeence between these dialects and the non-asteroid forms of Space English, which instead tend to strengthen /w/ to /ɾ/.

4: the first vowel is a prominent example of the asteroid-wide back vowel chain shift. By contrast, the Asaphian translation of this nominal clause reads i̯ii ɔru fozu.

5: an example of Space English’s occasional conservativism – the final nasal here has been lost in many English languages by this time.

6: our first example of one of the most distinctive grammatical features of Space English: the “see-relative”. Early Space English introduced the clause-ending particle see as an auxiliary marker of various subordinate clauses, including relativisation and comparisons of manner. In the former case, it has generally entirely taken over the relativising function – in āvan see translates to “who is in heaven”. However, while this is true within the Solar System, the more conservative and isolated dialect of the world of Valhalla also retains the original pronoun, and hence has iúús in ávan sēē.

7: another unusual feature of Space English is its retention and regularisation of the dative pronouns to mark recipient arguments of certain verbs (even in the absence of themes). Their use is most widespread in Vestan. In the case of the verb “to give”, all Space English regularly uses the dative: hence, for example, Asaphian gēf dɛ̀s and Valhallan gééf das alongside Vestan gēv dɛ̀ (Modern English “give (to) us”). However, in the case of the verb “forgive”, only Vestan uses the dative: Vestan fōgev dɛ̀, but Asaphian fògef ɛ̀s and Valhallan fógeef as.

8: Space English requires all imprecatives to be marked with the imprecative particle; however, the exact placement of this particle varies somewhat between dialects. Vestan tends to place the particle after a pronominal object of the verb if present, but Penuman prefers to place the particle immediately after the verb, and Asaphian allows single-word adverbs to also precede it: hence Vestan gēv dɛ̀ plɛ̀i gə̄iəd, in a way the middle ground between Penuman gēv plɔ̀iz dɛ̀z jhodɔ́i and Asaphian gēf dɛ̀s gɔ́ɔ́biɔt plɜ̀ɜ̀s. Valhallan, meanwhile, is as usual more divergent, and regularly places the imprecative particle at the end of the clause it modifies: gééf das gáájət ąr hāni kɛɛk pilɔɔs.

9: the word mīmbo or its relation is found in all Space English, but the exact meaning differs. In Vestan, it refers both literally to yeastcakes (the staple food) and metaphorically to the requirements of living, or by extension to money; in Valhallan, however, it refers almost entirely to money. In Asaphian, it can refer to money, or to food, but more specifically refers to the universal basic income.

10: as in several other English languages, the plural has been entirely lost from Space English, and wholly replaced by the use of numerical classifiers, along with numerals and adjectives – lêze is the classifier for most abstract nouns.

11: the merger of post-consonantal /l/ and /r/ is one of the shibboleths of Vestan and Vestan-influenced asteroid dialects. Penuman has grain, Valhallan has krain, and Asaphian has graam. However, it should be noted that the historic contrast is not entirely lost, but is partially preserved through consonant quality and tone.


A brief explanation:

Vestan is a prominent dialect of Space English in the 26th century; it has over two million native speakers and a respected body of media content.

Space English is an English language of the Western family – it diverged from West Coast over the course of the 23rd century, and was at first regarded simply as a ‘broken’ vernacular form of the southern variety of West Coast that was developing at more or less the same time and with which Space English has a number of developments in common. It emerged out of a very particular context: among early FTL pioneers exploring and settling the Solar System, West Coast remained the most common lingua franca; but by the 23rd century the dominance of West Coast had faded considerably, and many pioneers spoke it poorly. The Space English that developed consequently emerged from a process of mild pidginisation (though it is msitaken to regard it as a fully-fledged pigeon or creole), in which the number of vowel and consonant qualities was reduced, morphology was dramatically reduced (derivation) or eliminated (inflection) and a large number of loanwords were introduced. Much more use is made of clause-modifying particles, and the language is tonal. None of these features are unique to Space English, but their rapid and simultaneous adoption lead Space English to diverge quickly and to swiftly be recognised as an independent dialect. Since the 23rd century, it has since itself diverged into a number of dialects (or languages, depending on one’s perspective), aided by the generally insular nature of its speaker-communities.

Despite its name, Space English is not really the language of humans in space; the initial faltering steps that created a young and independent culture spread across the solar system were soon wholly overshadowed by the much larger migrations to extrasolar colonies, and the use of the nascent Space English within the early professional spacetraveller community was overwhelmed by the development of the modern space fleet on a dramatically larger scale and a more militaristic footing. Today, the language of the fleet is Fleet, a new mixed language, with some similarities to Space English but no close genetic relation, and no intelligibility, while the colonies speak a range of languages very similar to those they left behind on Earth – above all, Leewefraaka, with which Space English is not mutually intelligible. Space English has survived in only a few, overlooked places: the handful of colonies remaining in the asteroid belt; on Deimos (and to a lesser extent Phobos and Mars); and on the floating sky-world of Valhalla, which was settled directly from early extrasolar colonies, rather than from Earth. Old Venerean English was never widely spoken and is now only of academic interest; Old Lunar, however, has experienced a slight resurgence as a cultural and domestic second language, though it has few or no native speakers.

A defence:

This, you might complain, is clearly rubbish. There’s no way English spoken only a few centuries from now could be so different! But actually, I disagree. Changes aren’t all created equal, and it’s surprising how small changes can have a big effect in a short period of time. In the case of Vestan, I think that the soundchanges up to the 23rd century give a language that’s very recognisable as English, albeit with an unusual accent; but beyond there, I think that the changes suddenly ‘snap’ those bonds of recognition, at least for me. But this has also happened before. Consider, this English from 700 years ago:

Whylom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duk that highte Theseus;
Of Athenes he was lord and governour,
And in his tyme swich a conquerour,
That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne
Now, there’s a word or two might give a modern English speaker pause, and we should recognise that our conservative spelling obscures a few differences in pronunciation (‘silent e’ was not yet silent). But by and large, this is very recognisable and very understandable English. Oh, we might say, you see, English hasn’t changed much in 700 years, and won’t change much in another 500!
But now here’s some English from 1,000 years ago:

Swá ðá drihtguman      dréamum lifdon
éadiglice      oð ðæt án ongan
fyrene fremman      féond on helle
wæs se grimma gaést      Grendel háten
maére mearcstapa      sé þe móras héold

Look how English changed in just 300 (or400) years! Some of this of course is the replacement of some of these words by loanwords by the time of Chaucer, and some is the use of poetic images (and hence unexpected words), but even when the words are perfectly alive today, they’re different enough, and the grammar is different enough, that it’s hard to recognise them. And some of the changes are quite simple: even if you just regularise the definite article, introduce the indefinite, standardise the word order and cut off some suffixes, you get something like “a feond on hell,  the grim gaest hat “Grendel” (a fiend of hell, the grim ghast hight [i.e. “was called”] “Grendel”).

The Vestan I propose above may at first glance seem alien, but it’s actually not that remote – less remote, I’d suggest, than the changes in a few short centuries between Old and Middle English.


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